“Ask an Anatomist” now live on ANATOMY WEB


With much enthusiasm, I announce an exciting new feature on Wiley's ANATOMY WEB (www.wiley.com/anatomy). After a several-month absence from the World Wide Web, “Ask an Anatomist,” the acclaimed web bulletin board for those seeking answers to anatomy's most perplexing questions, has returned to cyberspace! John Wiley & Sons are sponsoring “Ask an Anatomist” on the web as a service to medical and biological education around the world.

For those of you unfamiliar with “Ask an Anatomist,” this service is not just a search engine plugged into dictionaries, textbooks, or anatomy atlases. “Ask an Anatomist” allows you communicate questions directly to a living and breathing Anatomist! Dr. Donal Shanahan, Prosector at the Anatomy and Clinical Skills Centre of the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, answers anatomical questions rapidly and concisely. He offers invaluable assistance to students and professionals alike who, in a pinch, can't find quick answers to conundra ranging from benign (the name of that little divot above the upper lip?) to nightmarish (how best to learn the brachial plexus and femoral triangle?).

Dr. Shanahan has dedicated his professional life to educating anatomists all over the world. He graduated in 1986 from the National University of Ireland, Galway with a B.Sc. in Biochemistry. A lifelong interest in human anatomy drew him to apply for and earn a technical post in the Anatomy Department of The Royal College of Surgeons of England in November 1986. At this post, he learned how to dissect and to teach anatomy to surgical trainees studying for the Fellowship of the College.

After four years and successful training and anatomy examinations at the College, Dr. Shanahan ascended to the post of Prosector. In 1991 he started training for his Doctorate degree in Anatomy. “Teaching postgraduates was great,” he says, “but I wanted an opportunity to teach anatomy to undergraduates as well.” In 1992 he moved to the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and in 1996 he was awarded his Ph.D. in Anatomy from his alma mater. After having earned The Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1997, Dr. Shanahan continues as Teacher of Anatomy to medical and dental undergraduates and to postgraduates as diverse as surgical trainees and anesthetists.

Dr. Shanahan has a deep interest in the use of multimedia- and web-based tutorials to enhance gross anatomy teaching. He initiated the first incarnation of “Ask an Anatomist,” which, after several highly successful years, went offline in early 2000 due to the sale of the sponsoring website. He also has developed a number of excellent tutorials (available on the web at http://numedsun.ncl.ac.uk/∼nds4/tutorials/.). These tutorials receive 900-1000 visits a day and have been favorably reviewed in The British Medical Journal and Student BMJ, and hailed by www.HMSBeagle.com as a Web Pick, by www.HealthAtoZ.com with a 2000 Featured Site Award, and by The Welcome Trust in their Guide to Internet Sites for Medical Students (www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/1/homlibinfacthiiarc11ims.html).

Dr. Shanahan serves as chapter organizer for the “Anatomy for Anaesthetists” part of The Virtual Anaesthesia Textbook (www.virtual-anaesthesia-textbook.com/) and is interested in creating distance learning programs with universities in the UK and the USA. Due for release soon is his interactive educational CD-ROM of the head and neck, which contains basic and applied anatomy for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Through feedback from “Ask an Anatomist,” Dr. Shanahan hopes to prepare additional anatomy tutorials covering topics in high demand by students. He even is hoping to develop anatomical games for Gameboy systems as a novel way to get anatomy into the hands and minds of young would-be scientists and higher-level anatomy students alike.

Dr. Shanahan brings “Ask an Anatomist” to the Wiley ANATOMY WEB not only as a member of the American Association of Anatomists and the British Association of Clinical Anatomists, but also as a Council Member of The Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland. By sharing “Ask an Anatomist” with the world, he assists more than just medical students in the throes of qualifying exams; he has brought much awareness to anatomy education in general. In the future, Dr. Shanahan plans to publish a book containing the best questions from the web site in order to make the site's content even more accessible.

It is with great pride that I welcome Donal Shanahan and “Ask an Anatomist” to Wiley's ANATOMY WEB. His contribution is the latest element of Wiley's growing list of online scientific resources.